Some big questions loom about the Labour Party at this coming election. Under Ed Miliband’s leadership, the party has failed to establish any form of convincing lead over the Conservative Party, and Labour MPs are becoming consistently disillusioned with the party’s strategy and direction.
That’s why Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that in spite of previous statements she would indeed vote on English matters in the House of Commons is so unnerving for Ed and his team.
He’s already got a major problem with English voters, as we know. The Labour Party became, from 1997 to 2010, increasingly reliant on its elected Scottish MPs. Now that it looks like the SNP may take a huge swathe of seats away from Labour in Scotland, Mr Miliband’s team will be gearing up for a Labour-SNP coalition – but he won’t be able to achieve it without showing English voters that he does in fact believe that they matter too.
After the Scottish referendum, I wrote to Scottish MPs, the SNP included, seeking reassurances that given the result of the referendum, and the feeling of unease amongst the English voting public, that they would not seek to vote on English laws. In fact a few of them wrote back and agreed that it wouldn’t be appropriate.
So yesterday’s announcement by Nicola Sturgeon, that indeed they now will vote on English matters, despite English MPs not having as much of a say on Scottish matters, marks a significant U-turn for the party – and one that I think it designed specifically to infuriate and enrage the English public. It’s the sort of divisive politics we’ve long come to expect from nationalist parties – and it beggars belief that few people saw this coming.
Mostly however, in party political terms, this affects Mr Miliband. The further north you go in England – indeed the further into Labour’s traditional “heartlands” – the deeper the resentment feels towards the fact that the English don’t have as much of a say as their Scottish counterparts, and that the Barnett formula leves them disadvantaged. The Scottish referendum brought this to the fore of English voters’ minds. It’s a shame that none of the other parties apart from Ukip registered these concerns.
Experts' predictions for the general election
Experts' predictions for the general election
1/10 Andrew Hawkins (ComRes)
Just as the polls in 2010 pointed to no overall majority for any party, the overwhelming evidence points to Labour either being the largest party or getting a small majority, probably below 20. The Lib Dems and SNP should each win between 25 and 35 seats, with single-figure wins for both Ukip and the Greens.
2/10 Joe Twyman (YouGov)
I predict it will be close. I predict a few tremors, though earthquakes are unlikely. I predict the eventual winner may not be the direct result of public opinion, but instead the outcome of political negotiations. It’s too early to predict numbers given all the uncertainties surrounding (among other things) Ukip, the SNP and the Lib Dems. It is possible that it will be close between Conservative and Labour in terms of both votes and seats. The Lib Dems might retain 20-30 seats and the balance of power, despite small gains for the SNP, and at most half a dozen Ukip seats. Gun to my head? Labour minority government.
3/10 Ben Page (Ipsos MORI)
A mug’s game for this election months away, but my predictions in order of likelihood: most likely a hung parliament or coalition of some kind, closely followed by either a small Labour majority or an equally small Conservative majority. Given how close the parties are, the unknown performance of Ukip in key marginals, the effect of incumbency on Lib Dem losses, the final size of SNP surge and so on, to be more precise is simply foolish! Professor Tetlock, who found that forecasts by experts were only slightly better than throwing dice, weighs heavily upon me!
4/10 Rick Nye (Populus)
I can see a hung parliament, where Labour is the largest party in terms of seats – though not necessarily in terms of votes, with the Lib Dems having 30 seats or fewer, the SNP having up to 20 seats and Ukip having no more than five seats. In short, it’s going to get messy and stay messy for some time to come.
5/10 Nick Moon (GfK)
I can’t recall there ever being an election more difficult to predict than this one. I’m confident no party will have an overall majority, with the Tories probably the largest party but no single partner for a viable coalition, with the Lib Dems on 25 seats, the SNP 20, Ukip three, and the Greens one.
6/10 Damian Lyons Lowe (Survation)
We might have expected a workable Labour majority, were it not for the wild-card rise of the SNP in Scotland. Survation’s December Scottish polls suggest an almost complete wipeout by the SNP in Scotland and result in 40+ seat gains – mostly at Labour’s expense. My current predictions are: Labour the largest party by 40-50 seats over the Tories, no overall majority; Tories 235-255 seats; Lib Dems 20-30 seats; SNP 30-40 seats – maybe held back from potential support level by opposition incumbency and tactical voting by pro-unionist voters. Finally, Ukip, 5-10 wins from Conservatives, including Rochester and Clacton, and potentially a single Labour-seat surprise.
7/10 Michelle Harrison (TNS)
The battleground over the next three months is at the kitchen table – the difference between what the statistics tell us about the economy, the experience that Britons are having of managing their household budgets, and where – and if – they believe politics can make a difference. In this regard, the disconnect with the major political parties is more interesting than the horse race.
8/10 James Endersby (Opinium Research)
Our first poll for 2015 shows Labour one point ahead [see above], but polls four months out from an election are snapshots, not predictions. It would be extremely unwise for a pollster to make a firm prediction now. At the moment, Opinium’s estimate on polling day would be the Tories slightly ahead on vote share, but Labour slightly ahead on seats. These numbers are based on a uniform swing, with tweaks to Green and Ukip numbers based on local information: Labour 320 seats, Conservatives 271, Lib Dems 20, SNP 16, Plaid Cymru three, Greens two, Ukip four. A hung parliament with Labour potentially closer to a majority coalition than the Conservatives.
9/10 Martin Boon (ICM)
I’ve not recovered from the Scottish referendum campaign yet, and here we go with another wildcard strewn nail-biter. For me, Labour on 30 per cent will only fractionally nudge past their woeful 2010 showing – behind the Tories on 33 per cent – but enough to secure more seats (290 for Labour, 280 for the Tories) on boundary wackiness. The Lib Dems will secure 14 per cent of the vote and 35 seats; Ukip will also get 14 per cent, but that only gets them a couple of seats. As for Scotland, I’m bewildered, but as you asked I’ll say 30 seats for the SNP, which wipes out a breathing-space victory in seats for Labour.
10/10 Lord Ashcroft (Lord Ashcroft Polls)
Declined to take part. His spokeswoman said: “As he has said many times, his polls are snapshots not predictions.” Health warning: when The Independent on Sunday carried out a similar exercise in April 2010, at the start of that year’s election campaign, eight out of eight pollsters predicted a Conservative overall majority.
Mr Miliband’s party, we know, has problems with those who identify as English. The Heywood and Middleton by-election, where Ukip came an incredibly close second to Labour, highlighted this. Labour’s fallen out of love with England, and in turn, England is falling out of love with Labour. Mr Miliband would have been deposed as leader of his party, had just a few hundred more votes swung to Ukip. This could have triggered the bloodiest battle for the Labour Party leadership this country has ever seen. Was Mr Miliband embarrassed by this? You bet he was.
And yet nothing was done to clamp down on the anti-English sentiment emanating from Labour’s hierarchy. In Rochester and Strood – in fact in Strood specifically – this recent feature of New Labour reared its ugly head again.
Whether she meant what we all think she meant or not, Emily Thornberry’s tweet about the Cross of St. George and the white van was construed by most as pure metropolitan contempt for Englishness. People will have naturally asked themselves the question: “Would she have tweeted that if it were a Saltire, or the Welsh flag?”
The answer is probably not. And this brings us back to the point: Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement yesterday spells very bad news for Mr Miliband. When will Ed speak for the English? Your guess is as good as mine. If Labour’s recent adverts are anything to go by – not soon. They’ve begun to spell words the American way, presumably because of their expensive American advisers. Still – it doesn’t bode well for the party’s attempts to connect with the people of this country, does it?
Cameron doesn't understand youth engagement
This week I attended a hustings in Thanet South, where you may well be aware by now, that I’m standing for Parliament. One of the questions from the audience really stuck in my mind: How do we encourage more youth voters?
I said that no matter whether people are voting Ukip or not, I have a feeling that Ukip’s shaking up of the political establishment would spur people onto becoming more involved. With us or against us, I’m all for the increased involvement of the public in our politics. That’s why Ukip is greatly in favour of direct democracy.
The Tory candidate standing against me, Craig Mackinlay, offered some words about trying to get more youth engagement too. But it doesn’t bode well when just weeks ago, his party leader pulled out of a young persons’ voter-engagement debate called “Bite the Ballot”.
I took a grilling from the panel of students and young people, as did every other party leader. But Mr Cameron showed deep disdain for young voters by refusing to take part. While it’s fair to say I didn’t have the easiest of times on the programme, I do have to say that it does some excellent work in getting young people interested in politics, and the Tories and their government would do well to recognise this.Reuse content